Unless you have been living under a rock, you know something is amiss at this year’s World Cup. I just read an interesting re/code article giving us lay folk a glimpse inside Google’s World Cup War Room. They’re in that room crunching scads of real-time search data from real-time Google searches originating from Google searchers all over the planet. One of my main take-aways from said article?
People are fascinated by vampires. “Suarez bite” was evidently disproportionately queried when compared to, say, “flea bite,” “dog bite,” and other more innocuous Google searches about someone or something biting someone or something else.
It got me thinking: Might there be a competitive advantage, in certain settings, to having a reputation as “a biter?” As someone who, under the right circumstances, just might set his or her teeth to work on an unsuspecting–or better yet, suspecting–victim?
My mind goes first to other sports. I could stay with soccer (OK, futbol), but judging by all the sudden, spastic falls to the pitch, there is probably a lot more biting going on there than can be perceived my the human eye. No other way to explain all that writhing in pain, eyes bugging out, he’s-clearly-about-to-expire-out-there that seems to transpire during every match. Someone has to be biting someone, there’s no other explanation. But I will leave that examination to those more qualified and with access to higher-definition slo-mo footage than I can get my hands on.
So, other sports? Hmmm.
If the San Francisco Giants’ MVP catcher bit, say, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, just once, I believe this would tilt the competitive balance in the Giants’ favor, in a statistically significant way, over the course of a long season.
Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting some big, theatrical, open-mouthed clamp onto Puig’s jugular. The opposite. Just a little nibble. Buster’s head is perhaps a foot or two from the batter’s legs. The batter is not focused on Buster. Buster is the last thing on the batter’s mind. And given that many players are now sporting the pants up/full socks, old school look, those lower legs are prime for the taking.
All Buster would need to do is lean forward for a moment, reach for a pinch of dirt near his feet, then extend his neck for a quick nip of calf between upper and lower canines. Or, a less vampiresque, but perhaps more manageable quick bite between matching incisors.
Quite frankly, Buster wouldn’t actually need to bite Puig at all in order to secure this psychic advantage. He could simply reach out with two fingers, pinch Puig’s calf with cat-like reflexes. Then when Puig flinches and snaps his head down to Buster in the crouch, Buster could look up expectedly. Lip curled up a bit to reveal a tooth or two with (fake) blood smeared there. And Buster’s wild eyes.
What’s Puig gonna do? The rest of the world saw, at most, a friendly pinch from a universally-respected ambassador of the game to the leg of an adversary. Then a friendly smile from under Buster’s mask. No one else save Puig saw the crazy eyes, los ojos, the twitching lip, and the (fake) smear of blood, the taste of which Buster seemed to actually enjoy. No one will give creedence to Puig’s shouts, “El Vampiro! El Vampiro!” as he jabs his gloved forefinger at the still-squatting Buster. The Ump will tell Puig to get back in the box. If asked to investigate, MLB officials will treat Puig as all early-in-the-film characters, first-bitten but never believed until it is too late.
But Puig’s rants, upon returning to his murmuring bench, will unsettle his teammates. Plant the seed. Each will hold in the back of their own minds, when setting their feet in the box during their at-bat, the possibility that a vampire lies in wait just inches away.
Good luck staying focused on Bumgarner’s arm slot with this on your head. “Any moment, Buster could rip the flesh of my calf clear off the bone. C’mon, that’s crazy talk, man. Jesus, keep it together, pick up the ball pick up the ball….Wait, did I just hear Buster shuffle his feet? Is he about to make his move?!?” This is not the stuff of positive self-talk espoused by the sports psychiatrists.
And suddenly, the Dodgers’ bench sees other behaviors and rituals of Giants players for what they maybe, really, are: Pablo’s habitual bat-scratching in the dirt, tapping a certain number of times on his cleated toes, then on his head, a cross carved carefully near his side of home plate. Blanco’s sudden, Gargoyle-like spring into the air from his crouch in on-deck circle. Pence’s refusal to blink during his entire tenure with the Giants. Morse’s always glistening left forearm, his uniform sleeves barely covering what look like warnings or prophecies written in an ancient language.
All this stuff starts to snap into focus. The opposing team’s collective heads begin to swoon a bit. A little light-headed, as all of these observations, foolishly ignored over the years or even–gasp–mocked, come home to roost. Scared eyes catch other scared eyes, shards of sunflower seeds hanging from open mouths and dropping lips, and share a terrifying realization:
The Giants are vampires. And zombies. And Gargoyles.
So yeah, it’s a small sample size, a limited study. But I do think Suarez is onto something. The Giants could use a little of El Vampiro right about now.
Thanks for reading. (Buster, are you reading?)